Study Guide

Turtle in Paradise Perseverance

By Jennifer L. Holm

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He says he doesn't think President Roosevelt will get us out of this Depression and that if you give someone money for not working why would they ever bother to get a job? (1.6)

As Mr. Edgit drives Turtle down to Florida, he talks to her about the Great Depression and suffering through the tough times. According to him, the President can't do much to save people from it either; they just have to carry on.

Because Mama's the housekeeper, we get free room and board. Which wouldn't be so bad, except the rest of the house usually comes with kids. And they're never nice to the housekeeper's daughter. (1.42)

This is just one of those things Turtle has to put up with. Why? She's got no other option. The kids are mean to her, but she has to suffer through and get over it. At least that's how Turtle describes it anyway.

Lots of folks go to bed hungry these days. I've heard of men fighting over scraps in garbage cans and about that lady who taught her kids to steal milk. (4.1)

Turtle paints a sad picture for us, but the reality is that during the Great Depression, many people were hungry and hurting. There is no other choice but to never give up.

Mrs. Budnick never sleeps and doesn't care if anybody else does, either. She thinks nothing of waking me up in the middle of the night to make her tea or toast. I'm so tired I can barely see straight. The only thing that keeps me going is thinking of you. (10.9)

This is part of a letter from Turtle's mom. What stands out to us is how her mom tells Turtle that the only thing that gives her strength is her daughter. Mama uses Turtle for inspiration to keep working hard and never give up.

Uncle Vernon looks at me. "You know, the thing about a turtle is that it looks tough, but it's got a soft underbelly." (10.77)

Does Turtle have a tough shell because she's had to go through a lot, or because that's just the way she's always been? It's a tricky one to answer. She seems cynical and jaded, and she's only eleven. Then again, we're not sure if we'd be the world's most positive person if we'd never had a home and had to deal with our mom's string of no-good boyfriends.

After what happened yesterday at lunch, I figured Nana Philly would have wised up. But I guess you can't teach a mean old lady new tricks, because the bowl hasn't been in front of her for more than a moment when her hand knocks it off the table. It falls to the floor in a splatter. (11.56)

It's clear that Turtle doesn't give up on her grandma, even when most other people have. Importantly, Nana Philly hasn't thrown in the towel either—she's intent on being her rude self, even when she needs help with everything. Yep, that's what we'd call perseverance. No one ever said it had to be for the better.

Everyone's always saying that hard times bring out the best in people, but far as I can tell, the only thing that hard times bring out is plain meanness. I left my shoes outside on the front porch last night, and some rotten kid stole them. (12.1)

We know Turtle's a cynic, but does she have a point? Maybe people just say tough times bring out the best in people to cheer folks up. After all, her shoes get stolen and Archie still steals their money, regardless of the Great Depression.

I know how he feels. I've never been this hungry before. Now I know why people go crazy, because all I can think about is food. (16.50)

On the island, Turtle feels very hungry, and can't take her mind off of food. Still, she doesn't give up hope that someone will rescue them—she's just got to survive until they get there. Her perseverance mentality is so ingrained that she clings to it even in emergencies.

"But he promised! He promised he'd take care of us!" she says, sobbing like she's dying. I feel her hurt like my own; it's the worst feeling ever. Uncle Vernon was right—I do have a soft underbelly. (18.75)

Turtle definitely has a soft side, but she is the strong one here. Turtle is able to keep it together while her mom sobs uncontrollably—she's got a talent for pressing on, even when it seems impossible or unfair.

I can see past the rickety porch and the tin roof and know it's built just like its people, to sway in a storm and not break. (18.88)

Finally Turtle sees past what the house looks like and starts to think about what the house can withstand. It's nothing short of remarkable that it weathered a hurricane, and its endurance mirrors the the people inside it, like Aunt Minnie and Uncle Vernon, who work really hard.

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